Based on a prompt from writing-prompt-s on tumblr (prompt reprinted at end)
I wasn’t leaning on the counter when they came to my register. My elbows were merely distributing 40% of my weight to the counter but I wasn’t leaning. I certainly didn’t not see them until one made a choked hissing cough. As I straightened my spine, the only straight thing about me, I affixed my standard customer service smile and began to greet the customer. The greeting died in my throat as I focused on the ‘customer’.
Now, I can just say I saw a trio of guob’nkrs but that doesn’t convey the confusion of seeing one in person for the first time. Most people will never see one in person only on tv or online in pictures. Even then they’re prepared to see an alien. I was expecting a person, a human person. Their roughly humanoid shape clashed with their blue green skin. Then as I examined their face, my eyes followed the line of their forehead back and back; skull curving into a bright red crest. My first thought was they were cosplayers but the extra joints in their arms and legs, which bent the wrong way quickly disabused me of that thought. The one closest to me coughed hissed several words and gestured with tripodal hands.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that. Can you repeat that?” I said reflexively defaulting to my customer service scripts.
Again it made sounds that resembled no language I knew.
“I don’t understand what you’re saying, sorry.”
The alien’s shirt opened and a second smaller set of arms emerged holding a box. As the alien pushed buttons and turned knobs on the box, I realized they were wearing casual button down shirts and khaki pants. No shoes on their inhuman feet. The clothing bunched in odd places around their bodies and legs. The alien suddenly smacked the side of the box and I heard a fragment of a sentence, “… working junk.”
The alien bobbed their head and spoke again. As they cough hissed, the box spoke in English, “Greetings non-combatant … take me to … manager.”
I could have asked if they meant the mayor or the governor or the president but honestly I’m not paid enough to correct aliens trying to initiate first contact in the first discount store they walked into. Plus the customer is always right.
I turned away, thumbed the talk button on my walkie talkie and said, “I need a manager to the front registers, please.” I turned back to the aliens, “He’ll be here in just a few minutes.” They glanced at each other and bobbed their heads.
Over the aliens’ shoulders I watched Bob power walk up the main aisle, around the queue, and past the trio of aliens to stand next to me. He did a quick scan of the register screen before asking me, “Anna, what seems to be problem?”
“They wanted to speak to a manager,” I said gesturing to the aliens.
Bob glanced over the register, did a double take back to me, and settled on staring directly at them. “About what?” he asked.
The lead alien spoke, “Greetings manager of dirt. We come to talk … nuclear war … stop.”
Bob sighed, “I’m not paid enough for this.”
“Bob, I’m really not paid enough for this,” I said.
Bob sighed again, “Yeah.” He stepped out from behind the counter, put on his manager smile, and addressed the alien group, “Ok, follow me to the office where you can sit down…” he had just noticed their unconventional leg joints, “or something and I will call … someone to talk to you.”
That was the last time I saw them in person. Several days later I saw them meeting world leaders on tv. Bob was interviewed as the person the aliens ‘chose’ for first contact. I didn’t even get a mention.
(The first aliens to visit Earth rushed development of their universal translator and it’s still not out of beta. “Take me to your leader” comes out as “I want to speak to your manager.” It gets wackier from there.)